Monday, September 28, 2020

Tracking Your Health Data in the COVID-19 Era

 As though the technoplutocracy doesn't already know enough about us, tracking our moves online and in the real world, one of the most pervasive technology companies is promoting a product that uses our health data "so that people can enjoy healthier lives".  


Here is the lead in page of Verily's website:

Verily believes that...

"...change in healthcare must happen from the inside. So we're forging deep collaborations across the entire healthcare ecosystem, from academic research institutions to life sciences companies to hospitals and health systems."


Verily has partnered with other "like-minded industry experts" to create solutions which will impact health outcomes through their investments in both science and public health initiatives.  Here are some of their partner companies and organizations which reads like a who's who of Big Pharma and Big Medicine:


Back in April 2020, Verily announced the following:

The goal of the California community-based testing program was to rapidly screen and test high-risk individuals who do not need immediate medical attention, including frontline healthcare workers and first responders who may have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  Verily notes that, while public health care departments have systems to track positive tests, regional information across counties and health care systems is lacking.  Verily notes that its technology can assist local and state health authorities through the aggregation of testing data, helping these authorities to make decisions about social distancing and other measures including adjusting COVID-19 test screening criteria so that people who need testing will get tested in a timely fashion.

With this in mind, Verily has developed a Community Based Testing Guide as outlined here:

Not only has Verily developed technology for COVID-19 data, it has also developed its Team Healthy program as shown here:


Healthy at Work and Healthy at School will "...make going back to work and school safer by combining testing, symptom tracking, data analytics and the latest guidance from the CDC and other public health authorities".  Users will create an account and will log in daily and record whether they have any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have been exposed to anyone that has COVID-19.  They will also be required to get tested when required by employers or schools, and, most importantly, will stay at home when ordered to by the Healthy at Work or Healthy at School tools.  This is all being done in the name of protecting the user and those around them.  Users will be forced to log their daily symptomology by states and municipalities who are using the Healthy at Work and Healthy at School programs in order to return to work or school.  Verily clearly states that, as of now, it is unknown how long users will have to continue to log in daily to report their health status.


My first question about this system involves privacy.  Verily states that:


"Healthy at Work and Healthy at School were designed with the privacy and security of your personal health information at the forefront. Data is stored in secure systems, as detailed in the Privacy Policy."

While your information may be stored on a secure server somewhere, Verily clearly states that:

"We collect, use, and disclose your information as described in this Healthy at Work Website Privacy Policy. We provide services to your university and/or employer to make your campus and/or workplace safer from COVID-19. To this end, we may use your information for purposes such as to determine whether you should be referred for COVID-19 testing as part of our testing program, to assess your COVID-19 infection risk, to communicate any test results and your COVID-19 infection risk to your university and/or employer as applicable, to assess your eligibility to be physically present at work and/or campus based on rules and guidelines set by your university and/or employer, to continuously improve the algorithms and procedures we use to assess and attempt to reduce COVID-19 risk, and for any other purposes required by your university and/or employer. In addition to using your data for these purposes, we may use your data to create statistics that do not identify you personally and may be used for improving the testing program, for research, and for public health purposes."


While your data may not necessarily identify you, it is important to understand the scope of the data that Verily requires.  Verily will ask for your home address, date of birth, sex at birth, email address, phone number, demographic information, recent travel history, current health status and known contacts with other individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 (another way of saying contact tracing whether or not these individuals are users of Verily).  Verily will also ask for your health insurance information including policy number, group identification number, primary insured's name, address, phone number and date of birth.  If you are tested for COVID-19, Verily will receive your test results from your testing site, health care professional and clinical laboratories and then share those results with your employer.


All of this strikes me as highly invasive, but, not terribly shocking given people's willingness to share pretty much everything with everyone.


Let's close this posting with a screen capture showing which company has created Healthy at Work and Healthy at School:


That's right, Alphabet aka Google.  Are you surprised?   I'm not.  Just think of the personal data that Alphabet can glean from its Verily database!


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